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A few years ago. my daughter was having severe issues with anxiety. She had just turned 18 and felt like the world was coming down around her. She thought that she had to have her entire life figured out. There were too many things to focus on accomplishing at one time and it was paralyzing her. This is when the “Ladder Theory” was born.
I was sitting on her bed and she was completely distraught because she was so overwhelmed with all of the things that she thought had to be done right now. I wish I could take credit for what I said but honestly, it just flowed out and it wasn’t planned. Sometimes, some of the best parenting moments happen with no planning. Well, this was definitely one of those moments.
The Ladder Theory Explained
It is a well known fact that you can not climb two ladders at the same time. It is a complete impossibility to climb two, three or even four ladders simultaneously. This is how we should look at our goals. Each goal is its own ladder. My daughter needed to buy a car, get a job, go to school, get her own place and she was looking at trying to do all of this at the same time.
I told my daughter to get on one ladder and to stay there until she had done everything she could do on that ladder. I asked her which ladder would make the most sense to start with. Correctly, she said getting a job. So, she jumped on the “Get a Job” ladder and she worked that ladder until she accomplished that goal. At that time she was able to focus on another ladder. The next ladder was to get a car. So she started a developing a plan to budget and save her money to meet that goal. Once accomplished she moved on to another ladder.
This concept really helped my daughter and in fact, there are times when I use it myself. I think it is a good way to keep us from putting the cart before the proverbial horse. It forces us to look at things in a logical order rather than as an unorganized list that can seem overwhelming.
What if Your Goals Change?
This is very simple, if you decide that one of the ladders you are on is no longer a goal, just get off that one and put it away. Don’t worry about it one bit. Part of life is being willing to change as time goes on. We all change and grow and dreams change as well.
Sometimes you have a ladder that comes back and that is ok too. Last year, my daughter was involved in a head on collision (fortunately she is ok). It destroyed her car and suddenly she had to get back on the “Get a Car” ladder. But before she could do that she had to get on the “Deal with the Stupid Car Insurance” Ladder. It was really cool watching her sort through this while using something that I had told her years ago.
Why is it Important?
If you are always looking at the big picture you become so overwhelmed that you accomplish little to nothing. You become paralyzed by the stress because you don’t know where to start. This can cause anxiety, panic attacks and depression.
So, figure out what ladders you have and determine which one is the most logical to climb first. Then just climb the ladders one at a time, taking away and adding ladders as you need to. Occasionally, you will try to grab onto a second ladder and you will fall. It will be obvious that it can’t be done and you will see how much easier it will be to just take it one at a time.
What ladder do you think you should be on right now?
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